Life is rich with eye-opening moments. Some of them are heart-breaking (like the moment I realized I was only a resource to someone I thought loved me, many years ago). Other eye-opening moments are simply moments of greater awareness than the moments that preceded. A few are literally moments at that point at which I open my eyes – like this morning, when I woke, opened my eyes, and found as my initial eye-opening experience that I am in tremendous physical pain this morning. My arthritis. It’s not a crisis of any magnitude, and there’s not much to be done about it that would be new, or particularly noteworthy; I take my pain medication, and I head for my yoga mat. After my morning coffee, I will soak in a hot bath and hope that the saturating heat will ease my pain and stiffness further.

My arthritis is in my spine. I rarely think much about how I rely on my spine until I find myself mostly unable to make use of it in any sort of flexible way. This morning getting out of bed was complicated by both the stiffness and the pain. I rolled off the side of the bed, letting my legs drop to the floor, and leaning on the wall to slowly stand. Sitting and standing maneuvers are difficult today, even after yoga eased some of the stiffness.

The pain is another matter. Even after easing some of the stiffness in my spine, I am hurting too much to find joy in the day, so far, which makes me cross. I reach out to my traveling partner and cancel plans to hang out. I am in no mood to be in the company of others, and for the time being, all I can think about is the pain. While that may change as I practice good self-care practices, I can’t really rely on being able to hold on to a pleasant demeanor long enough to be certain of treating others well. Solitude is a good choice when I am in this much pain. I don’t mind the solitude – and I definitely dislike finding that I have treated my traveling partner poorly over something as trivial (and commonplace) as pain. It was an easy choice to make, and my traveling partner does not complicate such things with manipulation, tantrums or drama; he appreciates being treated well.

Summer flowers are everywhere; I only see them when I look. Awareness matters.

Summer flowers are everywhere; I only see them when I look. Awareness matters.

The weather forecast is for a hot day. I take a moment to appreciate the existence of air-conditioning, sip my coffee, and pretend to plan my day in some way that isn’t centered on the pain I am in – but I keep finding myself accounting for the pain in a very frank way as I figure out what I want to do with this day – I keep having to remind myself that some of the things I might like to do are going to be damned difficult if I can’t bend, reach, lift, carry, get down on the floor and back up, sit in one place, or generally move with any ease. I am irritated to be stalled by pain. I remind myself to be kind to myself; this fragile vessel can only do so much on a day like this, and there’s nothing lazy about that.

I sip my coffee indifferently, contemplating just going back to bed…but that won’t work either; it was the pain of being in bed that woke me, earlier. I frown at myself for a moment; I am not making taking care of me easy, at all. I pause and put the focus on the good qualities of the day, the pleasant features of this moment, just beyond the pain…

Clematis on a summer morning is lovely even when I hurt.

Clematis on a summer morning is lovely even when I hurt.

…It’s a lovely morning, in spite of the promised heat of the day. The early morning sunlight is clear and bright, and filters through the blinds casting interesting stripe-y shadows that I enjoy greatly. The coffee I have been sipping with such disregard is quite delightful – a darker roast than I have been drinking (I tend to prefer darker roasts, myself). I am enjoying the warmth of the mug in my hands when I pause to take a sip.  (I nearly always finish my coffee in sips, consuming it well before it cools off, most days.) The a/c kept the apartment quite comfortable through the night, and I slept well and deeply, and woke feeling alert and clear-headed. Most of the housework on my ‘to do list’ for a Sunday can be done with relative ease, even when I am hurting, and occupying my time in that fashion will quite likely take my mind off the pain for a time. I have a couple new books to read, and it looks like a great day for that, too. I can choose from  Pablo Naruda‘s “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair”, Thich Nhat Hanh‘s “Anger”, or Naomi Wolf‘s “Vagina”. Taking breaks between chapters to do yoga will help ease my pain and stiffness if I find myself sitting too long.

It’s admittedly easier to focus on the pain; it shouts at me within my consciousness in a way that the pleasant details of the morning simply don’t compete with easily. It is worthwhile to patiently choose to be aware of more. Like so many practices, it does take practice, and there are verbs involved. My results vary. 🙂

The heavy scent of summer jasmine reminds me of my childhood home. I wonder why I haven't gotten a potted one for my patio yet?

The heavy scent of summer jasmine reminds me of my childhood home. I wonder why I haven’t gotten a potted one for my patio yet?

Today is a good day to practice exceptional self-care, and to treat myself well. Today is a good day to make choices that result in not treating others badly. Today is a good day for good choices, good practices, and an awareness that there is life beyond pain. Today is a good day to enjoy everyday moments of delight, and to practice self-compassion. This fragile vessel can only do so much, and there is no rush to complete living as though it were on my task list; the journey is the destination.